What ‘Venom’ Needs To Do To Land With Audiences

Scott J. Davis
Movies Marvel
Movies Marvel

With just a month to go until Sony’s first entry in their newly created Universe of Marvel Characters (SUMC) is unleashed on the world, fans are getting excited to see what Ruben Fleischer’s Venom has to offer. A bold choice for its opening salvo to the newly-inducted Marvel Cinematic Universe offshoot, made all the riskier by the decision to have the black-suited villain as the centrepiece to his own movie — without his famous adversary Spider-Man. As far as we know, at least — since Spidey’s off Avenging with his Disney-owned Marvel Studios pals. Although as of right now, of course, he isn’t doing much of that.

The big question is: can a Spidey spin-off without the webslinger really work? Can Venom and his alter-ego Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) sustain an entire film, and Fleisher’s movie pull in the big numbers that the studio hopes? We think it can, but it has its work cut out for it. Here’s what Venom needs to do to satisfy audiences.

The Hardy Boy

Eddie Brock Tom Hardy Venom
Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock in Venom.

Venom might be a risky proposition but one of the biggest ticks for film is the presence of Tom Hardy. The actor had spoken on many occasions about returning to the comic-book world after playing Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, and out of all the roles he could have taken on given the chance, this one seems a perfect fit. Hardy’s dynamic and ferocious acting style, mixed with his own brand of sly humour, fit both the role of Brock and Venom, particularly in the moments where it seems he will be ‘talking to himself’. Should these sequences — glimpsed in the latest trailer — work, and manage to balance the darkly comedic with the more grotesque/horror moments (if they survive in the proposed PG-13 rating, more on which below), there is every chance we’ll be hailing Hardy as the craftsman of something very powerful, and certainly unique.

I Predict A Riot

Venom Tom Hardy Riz Ahmed Riot
Venom (Tom Hardy) and Riot (Riz Ahmed) go head-to-head in Venom.

“So, if Venom is the ‘anti-hero’, then who is the villain?!” we hear you ask. Well, it seems like we may actually be getting TWO villains in the film — and brace yourselves, because both are humdingers.

Leading the charge is Riz Ahmed’s Carlton Drake, genius inventor and founder of the Life Foundation. His experimentation with humans and symbiotes leads Brock to investigate exactly what goes on at Drake’s shady establishment, and a showdown ensues. We discover that Drake bonded with another symbiote and goes by the name Riot — who we caught a glimpse of in the latest trailer.

But it’s the possible introduction of the second villain that fans are most excited about — Carnage. Rumours are that the big, red symbiote baddie is part of the film (potentially setting up a couple of reported sequels), with fuel added to the fire with the casting of Woody Harrelson in an as yet undisclosed role. Whether this turns out to be the case remains to be seen, but with Venom taking centre stage here, his antagonists need to be pretty spectacular to help make this a hit.

Venom Unbound

Venom
Venom, as played by Topher Grace, in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3.

Summer 2007: after two enormous sequels which, combined, grossed over $1.6 billion, Sony and Marvel were on a high thanks to Sam Raimi’s record-breaking Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. A third film was announced swiftly afterwards — Raimi would return and wanted the Sandman and Vulture as his villains. Producer Avi Arad had another idea: Venom. Hesitant to include him due to his “lack of humanity”, Raimi agreed and Topher Grace was — surprisingly — cast in the role.

But fans weren’t happy with the film’s depiction of the character, seemingly added almost as an afterthought, and given Raimi’s reluctance, the whole endeavour fell short despite big box office. The result was that the franchise was rebooted. There are many problems with Brock/Venom in SM3 but perhaps the biggest was not having the character as the main antagonist of the film. The hope with Venom is that while the film will proffer a different way of telling the story sans Spider-Man, it will allow for a fully-rendered character. And if it can be told compellingly enough through the lens of a few different comic-book strands, then fans will flock to it.

Embracing The Da-R-k Side

We know there was a great deal of trepidation about Venom, but after the film was announced, news that it was going to embrace its inherent dark side and follow in the footsteps of Deadpool, Logan and the Marvel Netflix shows with an R-rating, pleased fans.

Since then, however, talk escalated that if there was to be any hope of a Marvel Cinematic Universe crossover in the future, a more accessible PG-13 rating was the aim, meaning that cuts would perhaps have to be made. While some think that  Spider-Man may make an appearance in Venom, it will likely only be brief, so it seems like a missed opportunity to push the envelope a little and stand out from the Marvel pack. And after all, there’s no reason why any future MCU crossover can’t dial back the violence and horror. We were sold an R-rated Venom movie, but it looks like we won’t be getting what was advertised. Would that Sony make a bold decision and stick to the original plan.

That Friendly Neighbourhood Guy

Spider-Man Avengers infinity War
Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in Avengers: Infinity War.

We’ve already mentioned him but let’s explore the webslinger and his connection to Venom further. Is he a part of Venom or not? There are so many conflicting messages about the how and why concerning the hero’s absence from the film, with producer Amy Pascal saying last year to FilmStarts that “there’s a chance” that he could be involved.

More recently, director Ruben Fleischer told The Los Angeles Times: “I honestly don’t know what I’m allowed to say. I mean, I know the answer …” So just what is the truth? Well, we think it’s fair to say that our favourite Kid from Queens will make an appearance. In fact, given all the negative talk around the film’s rating and the lack of the White Spider on Venom’s suit, amongst other things, including him in the film is a no-brainer, even if it’s only on a screen. That said, given how Fleischer is talking, it’s a good bet that the long-rumoured cameo will become a reality this October when the film opens.

Venom hits screens in the UK on October 3, Australia on October 4 and the US on October 5.

Scott J. Davis
Freelance Film Writer usually found in dark screening rooms, on a red carpet or avoiding the low-lying microphones of a Junket...
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